Auburn Wins BCS Title Over Oregon 22-19
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
For the first time since 1957, the Auburn Tigers are the champions of college football. Auburn won the BCS National Championship last night, with a thrilling 22-19 victory over the University of Oregon. They clinched the win with a last second field goal, just one of many dramatic moments in a game that also delivered some unexpected heroes. NPR's Tom Goldman was there and filed this report.
TOM GOLDMAN: An electrifying end of game comeback by Oregon, a stunning 37 yard run by Auburn, a championship winning field goal - much to talk about, but not yet. That's because Auburn's senior linebacker Josh Bynes and his buddies on defense get top billing, finally.
Mr. JOSH BYNES (Linebacker, Auburn Tigers): Just like I told defense before we got on the bus to come here, throughout the whole week of preparation and everything before this game, they haven't shown not one defensive highlight. So what that tells us, defense? So basically, we've got to play at another level and show then what kind of defense we are today.
GOLDMAN: So Oregon star running back LaMichael James can blame ESPN, because that highlight-starved Auburn defense grounded James. He gained only 49 yards. Had his running mate, Kenjon Barner, been able to squeeze out just one yard late in the third quarter how different the outcome might've been.
(Soundbite of crowd roaring)
That's the sound of the part of the stadium wearing Auburn orange going nuts. It was fourth down with one yard to go for an Oregon touchdown. The Ducks decided not to try a field goal and sent Barner hurtling toward the end zone instead. That roar tells the outcome.
Throughout the game, Auburn's defensive line, led by all-American Nick Fairley, manhandled Oregon's offensive line. Leading up to the game Auburn heard all about Oregon's top-rated offense, averaging more than 49 points per game and doing it at warp speed. But the Tigers were ready, thanks to exhausting preparation, especially for a guy like the 6'5, 298 pound Fairley.
Mr. NICK FAIRLEY (Auburn Tigers): You know, we probably did like 2,000 jump ropes the whole time we was off. So, like I said, they were tired. I was tired. We were just going to see who was going to hit who in the mouth last.
GOLDMAN: With two and a half minutes left in the game, it became anyone's guess who'd land that last punch. Oregon's defense forced a fumble by Auburn's star quarterback Cam Newton. The Ducks offense then finally moved the ball down the field. And the two and a half minute mark, quarterback Darron Thomas flipped a short pass to LaMichael James.
(Soundbite of crowd roaring)
That's the yellow half of the stadium going bonkers. Oregon followed the touchdown with a two-point conversion - 19 to 19. But the quacking soon faded as Auburn drove back down the field, aided by that aforementioned stunning 37-yard run. Auburn running back Michael Dyer went down in the grasp of an Oregon defender, rolled over, popped up, looked around and kept going.
Mr. MICHAEL DYER (Auburn Tigers): All I knew was the whistle wasn't blown and my coach was saying go. And I just kind of continued to get some yards and keep the play going and keep the ball in offensive hands.
GOLDMAN: It was ruled that Dyer's knee never hit the ground. He followed up with a run that ended up just short of the goal line. Two seconds left, Auburn place kicker Wes Byrum finished the job - a 19-yard, championship winning, field goal.
The confetti fell, the Tigers danced. The Ducks shuffled away - this close to their first title ever and fully aware that this eagerly anticipated game lived up to its billing, even without lots of points on the board. Cliff Harris is an Oregon defensive back.
Mr. CLIFF HARRIS (Oregon Ducks): It was just a battle, you know. I hope y'all enjoyed the show we put on for you guys.
GOLDMAN: We did, Cliff.
Tom Goldman, NPR News, Scottsdale, Arizona.
(Soundbite of music)
MONTAGNE: This is NPR News.
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